Converting Your Client from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online

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By Stacy Kildal

So you have a client that wants to make the jump from QuickBooks Pro, Premier, Mac, or Enterprise? This is indeed exciting news, and I shall happily guide you through this process. Come with me, and let's go down this path together. I promise you're in good hands; I've been doing this for a very long time.

If you haven't seen QuickBooks Online (QBO) in a while, things have changed a bit, but this is a good thing! It's so easy to create a QBO account and convert your QuickBooks Desktop (QBDT) data these days. Just a few clicks of the mouse, really.

Before we start, let's look at how it used to be done. First, you or your client would have to create an account and enter credit card information, even though there's been a free thirty-day trial for as long as I can remember. Once the account was set up, if you set it up and used your own credit card, you'd have to invite your client and have the client change the billing information. Typically, I would have to schedule a phone call with my client to make sure this actually got done.

Then to convert a QBDT file to QBO, you would do this:

Open the file, then go to File > Utilities > Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online . . .

Then it would ask you to save it on your hard drive. The file type was a *.OE.QBW file extension.

Once you had that done, you’d have to log in to QBO, head to the company menu, and tell it you wanted to import your data from QBDT. A short time later, you'd get an e-mail telling you it was all good to go and you were set. Now, it’s MUCH easier.

I recommend starting from the Client List in QuickBooks Online Accountant (QBOA). If you don’t have a QBOA account, you can get one started here. If you are a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, you get QBOA as one of the many benefits included with membership.

When you’ve logged into your QBOA account, you’ll see something that was just rolled out before this article was written, a brand new Client List, complete with a big button in the top right that says: +New QBO Company. Click that!

You’ll then be asked to give this a name. Go ahead and put your client’s company name in there and choose what subscription level you want – Simple Start, Essentials. or Plus. (For more information on what features are available in each, check out this product comparison. For pricing, look here.)

Once the company is created, this window pops up to tell you how to convert QBDT to QBO. One thing to keep in mind: If you're converting from QB Mac to QBO, you first have to save your Mac file for Windows and open it in QB Pro/Premier/Enterprise in order to convert it to QBO.

As you can see, it gives instructions on how to prepare your QBDT file. If you click through this too fast, no worries! You can find the same information when you log into QBO and go to the Company tab, hover over More in the menu ribbon, then click “Import QuickBooks Desktop Data” from the drop-down.

Now, open up your QBDT file, go to the Company menu and choose “Export Company File to QuickBooks Online”:

I love that you’re asked to make sure if QBO will be right for you first! It even gives you a short list of considerations. For a more detailed listing of what will and won’t convert, check out my recent article at QuickBooks and Beyond.

The next step is signing in with your Intuit ID (this is the same one you use to access QBOA).

Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a screen that has all of the QBO accounts you have access to that are still in the sixty-day period where QBDT can be imported. (Note: you can import QBDT as many times as you want or need to within the first sixty days of starting the subscription; each time it will overwrite any existing data.)

Another thing to point out here is that you can also start the process from QBDT, rather than from QBOA. As you see here, you have the option of choosing an existing QBO company or creating a new one.

Just to double-check, you’ll be asked if you’re absolutely, positively sure you want to upload the data into QBO:

You’re all done when you see this happy little window – good job!

When the file has been imported successfully, you’ll receive an e-mail with some colorful clouds, letting you know you're ready to roll! This will be sent to the e-mail address associated with Intuit ID you used to log in while you were in QBDT.

You can either click on the link in the e-mail, or if you’re like me, just see the subject line and go to QBOA to open the new Client.

Now you’ll want to check to make sure your financials all match your desktop. I usually do a P&L for All Dates:

The next thing you need to do (we’re almost done), is invite your client(s) by hovering over the Company tab in QBO and choosing Manage Users from the menu ribbon. You’ll click the New button in the bottom right:

Then choose what type of user and enter the e-mail and name:

Lastly, once your client has accepted the invite, you can go back to Manage Users and click the  “Transfer Master Administrator” button to assign that role to your client:

The entire process takes about twenty minutes, and it will make you look like a hero to your clients! They don’t have to worry about converting, and you don’t have worry if the setup was done properly. By starting with QBOA, you’ll already be set as the Accountant User in the QBO company as well as have it listed in your QBOA Clients List.

For more information on how QuickBooks Online handles importing from QuickBooks Desktop, check out this article.

About the author:

Stacy Kildal is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and cohost of RadioFree QuickBooks. She is the owner/operator of Kildal Services LLC, providing accounting and technology consulting, QuickBooks conversions, bookkeeping services, payroll setup and processing, Intuit merchant services and customized training.


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Hi Stacy, are these instructions for accountants with clients only? I take care of my own QB account, and would like to try QB online, but their support pages say the QBO does not have the ability to import the desktop version (seriously?). I have 5 years of data, I don't need all of that, but would need at least the current year's data.

My copy of QuickBooks Pro does not have the option to "Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online". Lucky me. I guess I won't be switching anytime soon. I'm assuming these instructions don't apply to Canadian QuickBooks users.

Just made the jump from desktop to online. I was disappointed that QB does not convert your memorized transactions for invoicing. Nor does it convert over your recurring credit card charges. So, I decided to stick the desktop version. If you understand differently, please let m know.

why convert to online. if you really need "in the cloud access" WITH all the current features today, why not just remote in to ur desktop to run it? even better and you don't have to pay monthly for infantware!

Hello, Please I use QB desktop but will like to create online login access whereby other users can go online and view the desktop version that possible? Thank you

hi dear all do u know how to import quickbook desktop to quickbook online by multi currency

Our company is looking into converting to QB online but we found out that our memorized transactions don't convert..has anyone had this issue? does anyone know if this is true?

If you need more control over your Quibkbooks Online data migration, you might instead try 3rd party service

Hi Stacy, I am surprised that you would be advising people to use QBO. While the product has certainly improved, the desktop version has all of the same features PLUS a whole lot more that are very important. For example, in QBO, there is no iif importing functionality (which is very common among businesses nowadays). There is also no customization of the home page on QBO, which makes the home page often useless for most businesses. There are also still many issues with the data import from desktop to QBO, like preferred invoice delivery method going back to "print" for all customers, when they were set to "email". And the CC entry for email for all customers disappeared. This is just a short list of issues with QBO that we have come across when helping our clients migrate to QBO. As a computer consulting firm, we simply can't advise our clients to migrate from the desktop version, and I am wondering how you could be suggesting that they do this.